As City Leaders Contemplate Changes to Discipline Code, Students Call for End to Suspensions for “Defying Authority”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 3, 2014

As City Leaders Contemplate Changes to Discipline Code, Students Call for End to Suspensions for “Defying Authority”

(New York, NY)— The Chancellor and city leaders made public today that they need more time to develop an ambitious set of school discipline reforms that will reduce suspensions and support all students in succeeding. Following that news, the Urban Youth Collaborative, New York City’s leading youth organizing coalition, released the following statement:

“We are extremely pleased that the administration is considering this package of reforms carefully and are hopeful that we will see it soon.  We also believe that any strong package of reforms must include ending suspensions for ‘defying authority.’ Students like me are just trying to get an education. We are not criminals and should not be pushed out of school. We need this change,” said Nicole Cadena, NYC High School Student and Make the Road New York/ Urban Youth Collaborative Leader

Under the current discipline code, thousands of students are suspended each year for ‘Defying Authority’, listed as Infraction B21.  Last school year, an average of 40 students were suspended for this infraction each day of school.

“UYC believes that what will make schools safe are positive school discipline measures such as Restorative Justice Programming, which support students and adults in a school in ensuring a positive, fair climate in their school, and taking responsibility for their behavior.  UYC and our allies have supported programs like these for years, and we are pleased that city leaders are considering expanding them.   However, without preventing schools from suspending students for B21, positive programming will not do enough,” said Maria Fernandez, Senior Coordinator with the Urban Youth Collaborative.

Why it makes sense to eliminate suspensions for “Defying Authority”  (B21)

  • B21 is the second most common reason for suspensions in NYC. Students are suspended for things like talking back to a teacher or refusing to take off hats, missing up to 5 days of class.
  • Each day that passes without ending suspensions for B21 means dozens more students at risk of dropping out.
  • Under the current discipline code, thousands of students are suspended each year for ‘Defying Authority’, listed as Infraction B21.  This is a vague category of infractions, which put students of color and students with special needs on a path that leads some of them to get suspended again and again, and can cause many youth to drop out. One recent report suggests that a single suspension in high school lowers the odds that a student will graduate in four years by 46%.
  • Ending suspensions for B21 does not mean that students should not be held responsible for their behavior.  It just means that behavior that is fairly normal for teenagers, like talking back to an adult, wouldn’t cause students to miss class time and start down a path to dropping out.
  • Last year, the Los Angeles Unified School District banned suspensions for “willful defiance” as part of a School Climate Bill of Rights. Since then, suspensions have dropped 40% for black and Latino students. New York City should be a national leader in ending racial disparities in school discipline, starting with ending suspensions for B21 – ‘Defying Authority’.

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